One of the easiest misunderstandings on the planet is the distinction between joy and pleasure. Joy is an attribute of an internal state of awareness that emerges from within the consciousness of the participant, while pleasure is a fleeting awareness emerges from some external input. Joy lasts; pleasure disappears quickly. Blake reminds us that joy is not something that can be controlled or manipulated like pleasure. Joy is a spiritual reality. Blake writes: “He who binds to himself a joy does the winged life destroy, but he who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in eternity’s sunrise.”
The greatest quality of joy or bliss is associated with communion with those spiritual realities that indwell the human person. All the pleasures of the world cannot compare with the bliss of worshipful communion. It is in that communion that one experiences the unity and interdependence of all things and beings; there is no greater joy than this realization. It is our sense of separateness and isolation that leads to a quality of alienation and suffering. It is when we ask, seek and knock on the door of Divine Presence that it suddenly opens, pouring forth a wave of joy and blessing.
Hafiz asks the question, “O wondrous creature, by what strange miracle do you so often not smile?” If joy is inherent in human existence, as it is, then why is that we so often do not smile? It is our birthright, the precious gift of the Divine Presence; how could we not open that gift every morning?
“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things,” writes Wordsworth. Our perception of reality is altered by the presence or absence of joy. Joy is the precursor of wisdom, which sees to the core of all things and beings.
Joy is the clear sign of the Presence of God. When somber holy men and women approach, beware! Without joy there is little capacity for relationship. Joy opens the heart and the mind so that there can be a perception of the divinity within all things and beings. So, what are you waiting for, claim the joy that is your birthright!